Wednesday, April 18, 2007

But why must it always be ‘ignominious’

There are just too many similarities between England’s twin ignominious (local by-laws oblige us to use that word) exits from the 2006 World Cup of football and now the 2007 one of cricket for it to be a matter of coincidence.


1) In both cases England scraped unconvincing wins against amateurish minnows in the early rounds, with the management promising us that starting slowly is good …. the important thing is to win… if you can win while playing badly…raise their game against better opposition…etc.

2) In both cases England then promptly and predictably lost when coming up against decent teams.

3) In both cases the captain (Beckham, Vaughan) was there purely for his personality and leadership qualities, being little more than a passenger in a playing capacity. These qualities proved insufficient.

4) In both cases one solitary world-class player (Gerrard, Pietersen) showed glimpses of brilliance that might keep England in with a shout, only to be swamped by the general mediocrity surrounding him.

5) In both cases I swore often and with vigour at the television.

There’s a conspiracy here somewhere, I just can’t quite put my finger on it.


Gordon McCabe said...

The thing about the cricket 'World Cup', though, is that it's really just a one-day cricket world cup. The premier form of cricket is the 5-day Test Match, so a proper world cup of cricket would be a world cup of 5-day Test Matches. That would take some months to complete, hence the one-day cricket world cup.

The reason the England football team fail is because our players tend to lack fundamental techniques, such as receiving the ball without it bouncing off your legs, 10 feet away from you. This is ultimately the result of the anti-intellectual, working-class ethos which surrounds football in the UK.

Cricket, however, is a middle and upper-class sport, often played in universities. And, whilst such as Ian Botham and Frederick Flintoff may be exceptions to the rule, the frequent occurrence of batting collapses suggests to me that the problem is a lack of psychological resilience, not necessarily a lack of technique.

Brit said...

Intriguing - and almost plausible, Gordon.

martpol said...

What about the alternative theory about England's football, as admittedly expounded here by a sports dunce?

Misty-eyed fans are far too fond of recollecting the glory days of 1966 (which is pretty much two generations ago) and don't consider that England is now an average team rather than a top team.

Some might dress it up with moans about how the English club football system is too intensive to allow players the time to practise together (but since our club system has such a large percentage of foreign players, that argument won't necessarily wash).

Perhaps the reality is simpler and sobering: for an average team, we do quite well.

Gordon McCabe said...

I agree, Martpol, that the England football team is an average team, and that its performance at major championships is a reflection of that. But why are they so average?

Ali said...

I think English cricket's biggest problem is not allowing cricket teams to openly recruit as many foreigners as they want. Doesn't force English cricketers to fight hard enough for their spots and reduces interest in the domestic game.

England's footballers tend to play very well for their club sides and in Europe which suggests it's more a problem of management than player quality.

Brit said...

Ali is right about the England football team. There are plenty enough top-class players in the current crop to justify hopes that they could win something.

That's not wishful thinking, it's objectively true: these players form the nucleus of the teams that are currently taking 3 of the 4 Champions League semi-final spots.

The problem must therefore be something else.

The ODI cricket team is weaker, but again there are 4 great players (Pietersen, Collingwood, Flintoff and Panesar), and ODI cricket being a funny game, you only need 2 players to play well in any game to win it.

Let me clarify: I don't have a problem with losing in itself. Losing is the second best thing about sport. In a World Cup, there is only one winner and dozens (or, if you extend the football world cup to the qualifiers, hundreds) of losers. Winning something is very unlikely and you need lots of luck.

What gets me is the constant ignominiousness.